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1973 Ford Bronco - DNA Splice

1973 Ford Bronco Front Three Quarter
Jerrod Jones | Writer
Posted February 3, 2014
Photographers: Robert McGaffin Jr

If Chevy Made the Bronco

Twenty-five years ago, Todd White -- a Chevy guy -- was mud running a first-generation Bronco. He loved the size of the Broncos for his off-roading needs, and the timeless good looks of its body style can never be argued. Like any off-roader, Todd would break and wear out parts that had to be replaced, so he eventually came to own three parts’ Broncos that he could scavenge from -- a ’69, a ’73, and a ’77. But in 1989, Todd suddenly sold his Bronco at the Spring Jamboree in Springfield, Illinois.

While he didn’t regret the decision, Todd did miss having a Bronco, and quickly started to build himself another one based on the frame of his ’73 parts truck. As a restaurant owner in a resort town, he had only the down times during winter between busy tourist seasons to build his Bronco. For the first couple years he made steady progress, and his custom-built Bronco was shaping up nicely. But then a fiberglass replacement body Todd had purchased was found to be off by a mile. Nothing fit correctly and the fiberglass had even incurred some warping. Before the body could be addressed, another project came Todd’s way, and the Bronco was shoved into a corner. Over the next two and a half decades, multiple boat and car projects monopolized his winter downtime. But he never forgot the Bronco. Todd had wanted to build his ideal Bronco, with all his carefully selected pieces, since 1989. And it would eventually come to fruition.

The end result may look beautiful, but it does not tell the full story, nor show evidence of the intense amount of work done to make this Bronco run. It was definitely a labor of love for Todd, who built almost the entire vehicle himself, along with the help of a few friends to lift the body and do engine work. Not only was it necessary to build custom motor mounts, spring hangers, and crossmembers, but the fiberglass body was molded extremely poorly, necessitating hours and hours of fiberglass work before eventually spraying the red paint at home.

In 2012, he was able to roll a Chevy-powered Bronco out of his garage. With front leaf springs, too! This is obviously no ordinary first-gen Bronco. Todd had assembled almost the entire Bronco himself, using his experience building a number of vehicles in the Michigan area to decide how he wanted his custom off-road toy to end up. A modified 383 Chevy small-block feeds power into a TH400 auto transmission that is adapted to a Dana 20 transfer case. The axles and frame are still genuine Bronco, but the fiberglass body guarantees no rust issues, and the all-leaf spring suspension is the most maintenance-free and climate-resistant setup his Bronco could have.

Not to fuel the fire for Ford purists, but unfortunately, the fresh Chevy small-block developed a catastrophic crankshaft issue only 400 miles into its short life, leaving Todd’s Bronco dormant for another couple years while he diagnosed the reason for the engine failure. Two days before our photo shoot, Todd White finally got his ’73 Bronco back on (off) the road for good, possibly encouraged by the chance of a feature. If that is in fact the case, we’re happy to have been the motivation Todd needed to get his off-road toy buttoned up, so he could enjoy Michigan’s wonderful off-road areas once again.

Yes, you are looking under a real Bronco frame, but Todd ditched the front radius arm setup and went with a Chevy-style front suspension, building custom spring hangers and using custom leaf springs built by A&B Spring. A Bronco Dana 44 still resides under the springs, along with factory Bronco crossover steering setup. A Trac-Lok differential and 4.56 gears improve the off-road ability of the Bronco. An old-school banjo-style axle truss keeps the front end from bending following in-air maneuvers.

Specs
Vehicle: 1973 Ford Bronco
Owner/hometown:Todd White, Saugatuck, Michigan
Chassis: Stock Bronco, custom front spring hangers, custom engine crossmember and mounts
Engine: 383ci small-block Chevy, 10:1 compression, Dart II heads (202 angled plug), COMP Cams hydraulic camshaft, Edelbrock intake manifold and 750cfm carburetor, Accel ignition coil and spark plugs, Allstar cast-iron ram horn exhaust manifolds, Flex-a-Lite electric fans
Transmission/T-case: TH400 transmission with Advance Adapters’ adapter to mate up to Dana 20 transfer case, twin-stick T-case shifters
Front Axle: Dana 44 with Trac-Lok differential and 4.56:1 gears, axle truss
Rear Axle: Ford 9-Inch with 4.56 gears, axle truss
Front suspension: A&B front leaf springs on custom spring hangers, 4 inches of lift, Rancho RS5000 dual shocks
Rear suspension: A&B leaf springs, 4 inches of lift, Rancho RS5000 shocks
Steering: Factory Bronco T-link crossover steering
Brakes: Chevy truck Hydroboost brake booster, stock Bronco front disc and JFZ four-piston caliper rear disc setup, Allstar proportioning valve
Interior: Owner-restored, Grant steering wheels, Jaz seats, Corbeau four-point harnesses, AutoMeter gauges, B&M transmission shifter
Tires/wheels: Mickey Thompson 36x15.50R15 Baja MTZ radials on 15x12 Classic II rims
Other: 25-year labor of love to build from a $400 parts truck, fiberglass body with lots of custom reworking, owner-sprayed Torch Red Matrix paint, dual batteries, rear tonneau cover, front and rear twin tube bumpers with KC HiLites lights

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